California's missions were death camps for the thousands of native peoples who faced slavery and genocide within their walls. Today Castillo joins descendants of those Indians fighting for recognition of this terrible history and the price it exacts even today.
At the Berkeley Book Fair
Author Elias Castillo shatters the image of California's Missions as idyllic places where Franciscan friars and Indians lived in an environment of mutual respect.
What spurred Castillo to write the book?
What Others are Saying About the Book
Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox
"Reading this book will set your hair on fire and your third chakra racing while your sense of moral outrage boils over. Yet it is presented in subdued and sober terms, with fact after fact and story after story, building a sure case against the canonizing of Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra." . . . read more
Americans for Religious Liberty Journal
"Elias Castillo's remarkable book starts with a concise history of Spain's brutal conquest/colonization of the Americas, followed by a detailed, well-researched, documented account of the chain of Franciscan missions in California... (when) numerous small tribes ("triblets") were induced or herded into 21 missions." read more
Ben Nighthorse Campbell
U.S. Senator - Retired
"When one gazes upon the beautiful, Spanish-style, red-tiled roofs of the missions of California, they are unaware, as I once was, of what can be found on the underside of those tiles. Many years ago, I saw the imprints from the skin of Indian slaves who bent and shaped those tiles over their own thighs in the hot California sun. Mr. Castillo tells a story of which far too many people are simply not aware, the enslavement of California Indians under the mission system. While many Americans know of the Trail of Tears and other Indian atrocities, most do not know of the atrocities perpetrated on Indian people in California. A Cross of Thorns sheds light on this period in history."
Read an Excerpt
In reality, the Missions were death camps where more than 60,000 Indian workers died, many as a result of whippings, disease, and malnutrition.
The book is the result of more than six years of research and study of original documents including eyewitness accounts by early travelers, records kept by the friars, and historic letters by church and government authorities in Alta California and Mexico. Read an excerpt